Baling hay. It’s important & urgent work on a farm. It’s also a great business metaphor related to the number one barrier to growth in every business.
If you are not familiar with the art of baling hay, indulge me as I give you an overview. I promise this has everything to do with business – your business included. I can hear you saying to yourself, “How is a story about baling hay related to business growth? Trust me and keep reading.
Who should be baling the hay?
Hay represents future feed for the herd in the winter. Business owners… think inventory, sales leads or revenue for future business growth.
Making the decision to cut hay requires strategic action. Why? Because that freshly cut green hay needs to air dry a day or two before baling. Wet hay can combust in the hot, enclosed environment of a barn. Business owners… you have business and sales processes that need to be followed or there is disruption, mistakes or even serious mishap, right?
On the flip side, the farmer is watching the sky for rain. Hay on the ground that gets saturated with rain can mold. All that planning, preparing and work goes to waste. Business owners… can you relate to losing machine hours, team labor, equipment and profit?
Now, let me tie this back to leadership and delegation.
Several weeks ago we were beginning a new engagement with a large, family-owned farm. The day before our two-day kickoff strategy session, the CEO called me to inform me he felt strongly that we should postpone the strategy session because they had literally cut hay the day before (really) and it needed to be baled over the next two days before it rained. I asked him if he really needed to be in the fields, baling hay, to which he responded, “Yes, I need to be there to make sure it gets done.” I suggested that he delegate to his team, so we could move forward with this important launch meeting and that he could step out as needed to ensure the hay was baled.
We had our 2-day meeting and he didn’t step out. Not once.
Instead of inserting himself into the physical work of baling hay, he led his team, set expectations, gave them direction and then stepped aside to let his team take it from there. The hay got baled, and the CEO didn’t step a foot in the field. He trusted his team.
My question to you as an owner or CEO is tied to that metaphor of, “What ‘hay are you baling’, that someone else should be doing?” It’s not that the hay isn’t important. It’s vitally important. But you will never be the owner or CEO your company needs, and people won’t grow, if you are doing work like ‘baling the hay’.
We are all guilty of this. We all tend to gravitate to what we know, what’s comfortable, and certainly to what our habits are. And if you have been leading for a long time and are still frustrated that people are not ‘running with the ball;’ if you are lamenting that delegation doesn’t work, then perhaps you need to look at how you are delegating.
Most of us are poor at delegation. What we are good at is abdicating; simply shoving something off our desk to someone else and telling them it is now their job. No direction or process. You likely learned this way, so can they – am I right? That rarely works, and is why most of us stop delegating and proclaim: “I’ll do it myself because it will take less time than trying to teach someone or fix their mistakes.”
Here’s what you need to know. You can’t become your full potential if you don’t learn to delegate effectively. And neither can your team.
Think delegate to elevate.
This is a mantra from Compass Point’s own sales coach, Wayne Herring, that you might find useful when you are struggling with delegation: “Tell me. Show me. Let me do it. Give me feedback. Let me do it again.”
Wash, rinse, repeat. This is how you delegate. This is how your people will grow, how you develop the next level of leaders to make good decisions and grow the business. Recognizing that delegation, will require you to occasionally check in on progress and outcomes to ensure things are moving in the right direction.
And if you have to ‘step back in’ to provide some additional direction and ideas, be sure to hand the reins back so the team can fully experience “Tell me. Show me. Let me do it. Give me feedback. Let me do it again.” Clearly let them know it’s back in their court, that accountability lies with them to complete.
It’s time to stop ‘baling the hay’ that others can – and should – be doing. This is how you will build strong leaders in your company.
Tom Garrity is managing partner at Compass Point Consulting LLC in Hanover Township, Northampton County. He can be reached at [email protected].